Lake Norman & Mooresville

Location: Denver. ZIP code: Stanley.

They pay their taxes to Lincoln County. Their children go to east Lincoln County schools. Fire protection comes from the East Lincoln Fire Department.

But for hundreds of homeowners, as well as several businesses on the west side of Lake Norman, their mailing address is Stanley in Gaston County and their home post office is some 10 miles from home.

For reasons that are not completely clear, the United States Postal Service years ago carved out an area that includes Club Drive, Shoreline Drive, Pilot Knob Road and portions of N.C. 73 and assigned the Stanley ZIP code: 28164.

The result according to many local residents: consternation and confusion.

"It's crazy. We're not anywhere near Stanley. It doesn't make any sense to me," said Scott Brannan, general manager of the Cowan's Ford Golf Club, which lies within the affected area.

Brannan, who also lives in the neighborhood, says most of his regulars have become accustomed to the Stanley address, but it's confusing to those who are unfamiliar with the area.

"I'd love to see it changed," said Brannan.

Postal Service representatives say good reasons exist for the use of the Stanley ZIP code in this area.

"ZIP codes are designed to allow for efficient and effective processing and delivery of the mail," said Monica C. Robbs, communications coordinator for the Postal Service Mid-Carolinas District.

"When possible, our goal is to coincide with municipal, community, and, at times, county boundaries when establishing (or extending) ZIP codes.

"In many instances, though, rapidly expanding communities, facility capabilities and operational constraints do not allow for ZIP code boundaries to reflect those of municipalities," she said.

Shoreline Drive resident Earl Garrick notes how inconvenient it is when no one is home for a delivery requiring a signature and the Denver resident has to Stanley.

A check of the postal service website shows at least 10 post offices, many offeringfull service, closer to the area than Stanley.

There is a Postal Service procedure by which residents can request a change, but even that is fraught with frustration.

The Zip Code Boundary Review Process enables local citizens to appeal, through their municipality, the ZIP code they have been assigned. The process places responsibility on district managers, rather than local postmasters, to review requests for boundary adjustment, to evaluate costs and benefits of alternative solutions to identified problems, and to provide a decision within 60 days.

However, in this instance, those seeking a change in the ZIP code may have to wait a while.

According to Robbs: "In August 2005, a ZIP code boundary review was conducted for Denver and Stanley. The request was denied by the District office in Charlotte, and upheld by USPS headquarters in Washington based on the rapidly expanding communities, facility capabilities and operational constraints of Denver, N.C."

Robbs said a municipality may only request a ZIP code boundary review once every 10 years, so the residents cannot petition the local municipality to request another review until January 2015.

Meanwhile, residents affected by the ZIP code are resigned to making the best of the situation.

"I know where we live, and our friends and family know where we live," said Garrick. "It's just the Postal Service that doesn't know."